Safewords are one way to ensure that bdsm play in consensual. That bdsm is consensual is the difference between a cock hardening play scene and a horrific real life rape, it is that simple.
One of the thrills of bdsm is that limits are usually routinely stretched, going farther than ever before, feeling greater levels of sensation. This is an exciting and desired thing, but is also slow and gradual .. Doms as well as subs want to stretch themselves but they are not telepathic, and canít always tell when a sub has had enough. A safeword is a word that the sub can use to immediately stop the play or scene. This may become necessary for many reasons. Say a sub is receiving a spanking, and suddenly, it just doesnít feel good anymore. By calling out their safeword the sub is saying, "STOP", saying that is something is wrong, the scene is not working for them. It may be that they are past their pain tolerance, or are having problem with bondage, or are even just getting too tired to enjoy the scene. The sub may be playing with a Dom they donít know very well, and it is important to be able to communicate stop especially if the sub is in bondage and helpless. When a safeword is given, it should ALWAYS be taken seriously; the play should be IMMEDIATELY stopped. If the Dom/me doesn't respect the safeword, it's a safe bet that they won't respect other limits and the sub needs to decide whether they want to play with someone who doesn't acknowledge boundaries.
Why use a safeword at all? Easy, because sometimes pleading and begging by the sub is part of the fun and "no" doesnít mean "no". A safeword also allows the Dom to know that they are not pushing a sub further than the sub can handle. However say this.. the Dom/me still has the responsibility to ensure safe play.. and cannot use the "well you should have used the safeword" as an excuse. A sub in pain or even just the throws of estacy may not have the mindset to be able to use a safeword. So the Dom/me must stay in control and be vigilant to what is happening moment by moment.
In situations where a sub canít speak because they are gagged they can use a gesture as a safeword. This may be as simple as crossing their eyes, or a couple of marbles or a hanky in one of their hands that when dropped signify the safeword has been given.
A more uncommon variation of the safeword is the goword.. A word used by the sub to say.. "I am really liking this." and if used in a s/m situation means more pain is desired.
The most common safeword is red, slowword is yellow and goword is green, but any words agreed upon beforehand will work just fine. Just be sure that it doesnít sound like another word used in play.. and will be clear.. for instance.. mustard may by mistaken as Master if not spoken loudly and clearly.
Using a safeword can be hard to do sometimes. It's important to realize that no one is perfect. It could only mean that a limit was run into that the Dom/me didn't know was there, or they were tired or disconnected and not in tune with their bottom. It happens to everyone from time to time. If you as Dom/me feel burned out and want to stop the scene suddenly, or you get a powerful reaction you weren't expecting and aren't sure how to continue, you can use a safeword too; safewords aren't just for subs! If you as sub feel like your Dom/me is pushing you too far, and you donít want to play anymore, it's not fun, that's when you want to use a safeword--your Dom/me will be glad you used it to tell them where you were at.
Always when playing with s/m there is a possibility of an abrupt stop to the play. If you acknowledge this possibility in advance, and talk about what kinds of comforting or remedy might be appropriate it'll make recovering from a mishap a lot easier and more pleasant. And because a scene goes wrong is no reason to think that you or your partner is fundamentally bad or untrustworthy--mistakes will happen. (If your partner doesn't want to hear your concerns about the mishap, though, or if they belittle or deride your concerns, you may well be unable to avoid future mishaps. If your relationship doesn't learn from painful experience, it may not be ready to handle doing SM..)
In conclusion, not every BDSM player uses safewords. Some people into BDSM don't find them useful for the style of play they prefer; more straightforward communication suffices for them. Some partners find their need for a safeword gradually diminishes as they get to know each other better. But for many people beginning their explorations (and many who've explored enormously), safewords have proved very helpful. Safewords are strongly encouraged by the members of the BDSM Circle.
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